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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Musudan-ri/Musudan-ni Launch Pad/Gantry

In the late 1990s the launch pad and gantry umbilical tower were modified to accept an improved missile. The significant changes in the design of the Taep'o-dong-1 gantry to the design of the Taep'o-dong-2 gantry umbilical tower reflected a very significant rebuild of the facility feature structures. Most significant was the realization that the Gantry for Taep'o-dong-2 was far taller than was needed for the then existing launch vehicle design. It suggested, at the time in 1998-1999 the potential growth of future satellite launch vehicles beyond the Taep'o-dong-2. This design change to the tower took place with in a year after the Taep'o-dong-1 launch, which utilized the same launch facility. It indicated the then expected pacing of the Taep'o-dong-2 class launch vehicle launch expectations, excepted to be far sooner than later. This Present Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad with its 2 meter inside diameter launch pad had been utilized for one static test firing of its first stage. The gantry umbilical tower design resembled an equivalent Chinese launch vehicle gantry umbilical tower design approach.

Subsequently static test firings for the Taep'o-dong-2 took place on the nearby regional rocket engine and now launch vehicle stage static test firing facility infrastructure.

Taep'o-dong 2 Launch Facility (~1998-09)

Evolution of Taep'o-dong launch pad gantry

While the Taep'o-dong-2 class launch pad gantry umbilical tower has evolved over several changes since the year 2000, none were note worthy as those seen in 2009. It has had its lower half service levels reworked and added to too enclose the booster base on its launch pad for pre-launch environmental control once placed on the pad. Some of the imagery showed that the gantry crane has also been revised with a newer much more stable crane to prevent vertical oscillations.

The most important change in the pad area is the re-appearance of the apparently two off pad partially underground propellant storage facilities previously seen but now moved 90 degrees from it original facility position for on site propellant storage. This suggested the introduction of a new automatic propellant supply loading operations for the boosters, instead of the many truck based fuel loading operations. These had high risk issues seen during operations in 2006. Truck based delivery of the on site propellant storage was expected to continue. Some propellant may still have had to be delivered by truck based vehicles along with the high pressure gases truck based support elements.

This indicated, as of 2009, the extensive issues that the North Korean's encountered while dealing with the first Taep'o-dong-2 class pad operations in 2006 verses the initial experience encountered in the year 2000. The launch support facilities area near the pad seemed to have received 2 support buildings between the years 2006-2009, one of which might have utilized a mobile van based telemetry equipment.

Potentially at least 4 different designs of the Taep'o-dong-2 booster can be accommodated with the revised army green colored gantry umbilical tower design. Only one of these designs utilized all the service levels in existence.

Taep'o-dong 2 Launch Facility Studies

Taep'o-dong 2/3 Configurations

Evolution of Taep'o-dong launch pad gantry

Taking into account the construction imagery of the North Korean western launch site clearly shows the smaller diameter for the Taep'o-dong-2 upper stage gantry service levels. Additionally the lower half of the gantry service levels for the first stage appears to be more extended out from the main tower than for the upper stages.

The changes to the launch pad and gantry umbilical tower were seen in 2009 as consistent with launch facility design changes since the year 2000 through 2008 from its original design seen in 1994. They appeared to indicate a considerable launch vehicle redesign effort had been in progress. It further suggested that the first stage as been totally redesigned since the year 2000, while the upper stage designs have survived with some improvements.




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